If You Are Charged with an Offense
If you have received a traffic ticket, also called a summons and complaint, you may face arraignment, particularly if you are charged with a serious traffic offense like drunk driving, breath test refusal, driving while suspended or revoked, or driving without insurance. DO NOT IGNORE THE TICKET! If you do, the municipal court will issue a warrant for your arrest. The police could take you into custody. You may have to post bail and pay a fine for not appearing when required to.
Hire a Lawyer as soon as you can. More often than not, municipal courts will cancel your arraignment if a lawyer has sent them a letter verifying that the lawyer represents you. This is because the lawyer can generally enter your plea by mail and give you personally and privately the information a municipal court would review with you in public. If you cannot hire a lawyer in time for the arraignment, don’t panic. Call the municipal court before the court date at bottom of ticket. Instructions for contacting the municipal court will be on the back of the ticket. Tell the person taking your call that you are pleading NOT GUILTY and ask when the next court date will be. Get the name of the person you speak to.
Go to the Arraignment unless your Lawyer tells you otherwise. The arraignment is your first appearance in the municipal court when the judge asks you how you plead and whether you want a lawyer. At arraignment, the judge will ask how you plead. Your plea should almost always be NOT GUILTY. The judge will also ask if you want to hire a lawyer and, if so, whether you can afford one. Indigent defendants can obtain a Form 5A: Application for Public Defendant to apply for legal representation. Most municipal courts have these forms available on request. If you use one, try to keep a copy for your records. If you are not indigent, hire a Lawyer as soon as possible.
You Need a Lawyer. Even if you believe you are guilty, under the law you may not be. Without the necessary experience, you might not know of a defense that would lead to your acquittal. Or you could receive a more severe punishment than that which would otherwise face. Not only can a lawyer improve your chances for success, he or she can define the potential risks and rewards associated with litigation and help you make decisions that will have long term affects on your future.
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